Crime of Association, Crime of Disinformation

By GARY ZATZMAN, SHUNPIKING ONLINE

HALIFAX (4 April 2004) -- Here we go again: a hysteria of media reportage surrounding the arrest and charge of Mohamed Monin Khawaja, a Canadian software developer of Pakistani background and parentage resident in Ottawa, without any actual evidence.

At the same time eight individuals, all of Pakistani national origin, were arrested in Britian in a highly-dramtized scoop operation -- the lead item on BBC World News -- that secured "a dangerous quantity of ammonia nitrate" which has quickly turned out to be a bag of fertilizer.

Do we have here once again the conviction of an individual in public on the basis of a particular ethnic background and religious affiliation? Do we have here once again a targeting of persons of Pakistani origin in Canada -- as well as Britain?

The profile

In September, 2003, there was a sensational report of 21 Pakistani students from a private training school in the Greater Toronto Area being arrested and detained in pre-dawn raids of "immigration violations" and/or possible "threats to national security." These young men are all of South Asian origin, were of the Islamic faith and, as a result, just may be "extremists" due to where they are from and as a result may be linked to terrorist groups like Al-Qaeda. The arrests were widely reported around the world.

The 21 Muslim students were arrested under the Immigration and Refugee Protection (sic) Act, through which immigrants and refugees can be arrested without charge, without factual evidence, let alone any burden of proof, denied a fair trail and imprisoned indefinitely.

On the basis of falsified information presented by Canadian Security and Intelligence Service (CSIS) at the detention hearing of those arrested -- that one was taking pilot training at a school which might (but evidence indicated did not) fly over the Pickering nuclear power plant, and that two others -- "associated" with those arrested had once attempted to access the grounds of the plant, the monopoly media constructed a major "threat" to Ontario's nuclear plants. The disinformation counted on the heightened concerns of the people of Ontario after the electrical blackout in August and the non-stop reporting by the tabloid press since 9/11 of disaster scenarios at Canadian targets involving "Islamic terrorism".

What was not widely reported around the world or across Canada for that matter is that one by one the "detainees" were released for lack of anything resembling a shred of evidence. The arrest, detention and media sensationalism was a common type of fraud, based on a simple lie: it was all being allegedly done in the name of "protecting Canadians from terrorists." This is a provocation and an attack on the fundamental rights of all Canadians aimed at splitting Canadians and fostering racist hysteria against Pakistanis, Arabs and Muslims.

The students have since left Canada, through pressure or voluntarily -- their plans for an education having been cruelly exploited and blown apart both by the operators of the training school and the government. In Toronto and some other locales, there was a sympathetic protest from Canadians on the side of the students.

The media

The total irresponsibility of the media in retailing the contents of government-issued press releases as though fact, in order to create an atmosphere of hysteria in which the authorities could proceed with impunity, has been largely unchallenged.

Today, there is a notion widely embraced by the gatekeepers of the monopoly media, that questions of such sensitivity for "national security" are involved in cases of this kind that one dare not look at matters squarely and call a spade a shovel. It is the same pragmatic outlook that led the media to facilitate the disinformation and lies of the Bush administration on the issue of Iraq's weapons of mass destruction -- the heart of the President's case for an illegal war. This is the process by which arbitrary acts of the government are invested with impunity by the media.

The timidity of the media was further illustrated in the wake of the RCMP's raid on the home and workplace of Ottawa Citizen reporter Juliet O'Neill, accused of violating the Official Secrets Act (!). For several months previous, she had become the conduit for exposes of a campaign by the Chrètien Liberals to defame a Federal Development Bank president, after he challenged their interference in its loans policies. In such an atmosphere, it is a very short step indeed to redefine abject capitulation to government diktat as "prudence".

All the initial media reports of the arresty of Mr Khawaja were surrounded with an aura of mystery. What had he been charged with? Not one single report in the media mentioned the specifics of the charge of which he is accused. Seveeral days later a CBC-Radio interview with Toronto lawyer Paul Copeland mentioned the severity of the sentence. How can this be? Why did not a single newspaper or TV network consider this worthy of investigation?

The charge

But here is a stunning fact: anyone taking fifteen minutes' on the Internet -- to get the RCMP press release detailing the charge (www.rcmp-grc.gc.ca), the sections of the Criminal Code of Canada describing the crime and the original source of these sections in Canada's anti-terrorism law, Bill C-36 -- could quickly demystify the nature of the government's line of attack in the Khawaja case.

The relevant sections of Criminal Code under which Mr. Khawaja had been charged (as of 31 March 2004) are Sections 83.18 and 83.19

According to Bill C-36, a group is defined as "terrorist" within Canada if the Governor-in-Council merely deems it so and appropriate findings are signed by the Attorney-General.

No evidence needs to be provided of the membership or participation of the individual charged in the designated group, merely an assertion of association, that is, crime by association. The association does not have to have taken place within Canada, the source of the assertion also does not have to originate from within Canada, and the asserted terrorist activity need never to have taken place -- and hence does not have to proved with factual evidence -- to justify being charged under this section.

Even if the charge concerns an allegation of participation in activities of a group that Canada has not designated as "terrorist", Section 83.18 (3)(c)(2) provides the ultimate catch-all. It goes like this:

"(3) Participating in or contributing to an activity of a terrorist group includes

"...(c) recruiting a person in order to facilitate or commit ...

"...(ii) an act or omission outside Canada that, if committed in Canada, would be a terrorism offence;..."

In other words: no finding is needed by the Canadian government as to whether the group is indeed "terrorist", no factual evidence, let alone any burden of proof. Whether anything resembling "recruiting" actually took place also does not have to be proven by any objective means. Information in the hands of the authorities as to some association or connection is sufficient to arrest and charge someone with "recruiting". These are the pretexts and methods of a police state.

Because the Canadian state has legislated that it can act with impunity in matters of "national security" does not make it right, just or legal. How can impunity be called "legal"? "Law" of this kind serves to raise anarchy to the level of authority. It makes a travesty of the concept of the Rule of Law. This "law" is nothing but a procedure for suppressing various acts or individuals without regard for their human, civil and political rights.

These high-handed measures of the Canadian state are violations of the principles of international law and conventions, the rule of law and fundamental justice.

Section 83.19, which is also part of the charge against Mr Khawaja, sets out the penalty upon conviction for the crimes described in 83.18 which we have cited above. But it also brings out the arbitariness in the government's intent:

83.19 (1) Every one who knowingly facilitates a terrorist activity is guilty of an indictable offence and liable to imprisonment for a term not exceeding fourteen years.

(2) For the purposes of this Part, a terrorist activity is facilitated whether or not (emphasis added)

(a) the facilitator knows that a particular terrorist activity is facilitated;

(b) any particular terrorist activity was foreseen or planned at the time it was facilitated; or

(c) any terrorist activity was actually carried out.

If the monopoly media had spelled out the frankly fascist legal pretext used by the government and the RCMP in this case, public opinion would be enraged and up in arms.

All this activity in London and Ottawa preceded amidst an atmosphere marked by escalating concern for the security and stability for the military dictatorship of General Pervez Musharraf in Pakistan.

It is true that people should be vigilant, but against what? Our fellow citizens or the state? The use of dubious pretexts, falsified information and draconian laws in the name of the "war on terrorism" is raising justifiable concern that racial profiling against those of Arabic background or Muslim faith constitutes the thin edge of the wedge, the creation of precedents to be used against any section of the Canadian people.



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